Laws of Physiques

Monday, April 01, 1996
Since she first sashayed onto the American scene in 1959, Barbie has reproduced more than 800 million times. To say that she sets an impossible standard of beauty is obvious, but Kelly Brownell, a psychologist at Yale, has determined just how impossible. According to his calculations, if an attractive, healthy woman like the one shown here (left) keeps her hips the size they are, she would have to gain nearly a foot in height, add four inches to her chest, and lose five inches from her waist to become a life-size Barbie (right). Brownell worries that in a country where anorexia is not uncommon, Barbie may convey an unhealthy message to children. I don’t think that there are people that have those proportions, he says. But if every Barbie was taken off the market, would this help body image in Americans? I don’t know, because the message to be thin and disproportionate is pretty widespread. Brownell is shown here with his seven-year-old daughter, who owns six of the dolls.
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